Final Destination

Among the other things -- there's more than this, of course there's more than this -- is the question of whether things would ultimately have been any different, if I'd been somewhere else that night. Suppose I hadn't gone outside for a moment of fresh air and taken that particular path down among the cherry trees. Suppose that I'd simply stayed inside and fallen asleep as the red moonlight slanted down through my windowpane.

Would it have made a difference?

Would it have made a difference if Tsuzuki had been somewhere else when he did whatever it was that attracted your attention, I wonder? You were waiting for him, you laid that whole careful snare for Tsuzuki and caught me up in it almost casually, a toy by the wayside. But if Tsuzuki had done something else, whenever it was (will he ever tell me?) or whatever it was (will he ever tell me?), then would it be different now?

Would it have happened on another night, when I chose to go outside? Perhaps the moon would have been pale, or hidden by clouds. Perhaps the cherry blossom would be gone, if it was winter, and the ground would have been covered in snow, and my bare feet would have been chilled and white and damp, and I would have only walked there for a moment before going in again. Perhaps I would have seen you there, a shadow of death as pale as the snow, taking that woman's life and spilling it out in bright scarlet. And I would have turned to run, and you would have caught me, and nothing would change.

Or, then again, perhaps if I had never gone out to you, then you would have come in to me. I would have been sitting in that attic on the empty floorboards, and there would have been a knock on the door, and you would have entered -- a new doctor to see me, a new physician to silence me, someone sent to make me a normal boy. Your eyes would have been bright in the dark room. I don't know what you would have said.

The river reaches the sea, the lightning falls from heaven, the tree trembles and shatters in the tempest, and though the steps along the path may be different, none of them manage to avoid the final ending.

Perhaps you would have come by night. I would have looked up into the red moonlight, and seen you sitting there by my bed. You would have put your fingers against my lips. I would have tasted you, then, mind and soul against my own, and there would have been nothing for me to say, for I would have felt my own death latent within you.

It wasn't fair. No. It isn't fair. No. Not for me, not for Tsuzuki, not for any of us. I want to scream and beat my fists against the wall and force someone, anyone, to answer. Who made mercy so blind and unhearing? Who ordained our deaths? Who arranged the red moon and the blood and the pain?

I would like it if there could have been a difference; if something which I had done, or which Tsuzuki had done, would have made things other than they are. Even if it meant more long years in the silence of the attic for me. Even if it meant that we never met. Because, you see, if that had happened, then perhaps you wouldn't have been there either, not part of this story, not part of our lives, and your shadow wouldn't have fallen over us.

Perhaps even you might have been someone different, if things had been otherwise. I know, I know, it strains my imagination for me to think that you could ever have been anything other than what you are; pale murderer, silver knife, white flesh, smiling death, the hands and the mouth and the eyes in the hushed night. But perhaps you could have been. I hate you, but that's all I know of you, and all I ever want to know, and I will never know if there could be anything more -- and yet, I wonder.

But here in the antechamber of Hell, where time is stopped and nothing changes, I know in my heart that it would never have been any different for any of us. If not as it was, then some other way. You would always have been there, waiting for me at the turn of the stairs. If not in the cherry orchard, then in the attic, or in the snow, or somewhere unexpected, and I would never have known why suddenly it all seemed so familiar, and why death's rose opened for me as though it had always been waiting. And for Tsuzuki, too. If not in the church with the endless candles and the dead girl, or in the old building with the hair binding me tight until the blood ran and you whispered in my ear, or on the long flight of steps in Kyoto with the red leaves blowing wild around us, then . . . then somewhere else, something else, in some other way. And never any different for you, either. You are a leaf in the same wind, a ghost on the same path, another damned child of darkness who knows many paths but only one destination.

Somewhere in this garden of forking paths, I walk under the cherry trees, and everything comes down to that single moment when I step out into the moonlight and see you there. The knife rises and comes down. The woman jerks in your arms, hair a bright darkness in the moonlight, and the blood flows. You turn and look at me. I stand there, clasping my yukata to me stupidly, and the clock ticks done, sealed, set, paid, lost. And everything after that is a coda to the piece; those few quick steps, the clutch, the fall, the silence all around us singing so loudly in my ears, the bruised cherry petals cold beneath my cheek, and my death already in me.

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